Reporting, Transportation

NIOSH: Study Reveals Factors in Risky Driving

Little sleep, long commutes, and long hours contribute to risky driving behaviors among oil and gas extraction workers, according to a study profiled in the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s November 2 eNews. The study appeared in the September 2022 issue of American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

An earlier Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of work-related death in oil and gas extraction, but the underlying causes were unclear. NIOSH researchers looked at factors linked to risky driving among oil and gas extraction workers based in Colorado, North Dakota, and Texas. Researchers examined survey responses from 498 workers about work schedules, workplace policies, and risky driving events, including feeling drowsy while driving, falling asleep, or nearly experiencing a motor vehicle crash.

Survey results showed that long work hours and commutes, insufficient sleep, and a lack of employer driving policies increased the likelihood of one or more risky driving events.

Conclusions learned from the surveys included:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported workdays of 12 or more hours.
  • Nearly half reported less than 7 hours of sleep per workday.
  • Respondents reported, on average, commuting almost 2 hours round trip.
  • About one-fourth reported falling asleep while driving a work vehicle or feeling extremely drowsy more than once a month while driving at work.

Nearly all survey respondents were male, more than a third were Hispanic, and the largest percentage was 25–34 years old.

Workplace inhalation injuries examined

Other research highlighted in NIOSH’s eNews included a study of hazardous substance exposures treated in hospital emergency departments. A 2000 NIOSH study found a higher rate of workplace inhalation injuries was treated in U.S. emergency departments than in Canada and the United Kingdom.

A new study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine looked at U.S. emergency department records for these injuries. Approximately 2.2 workplace inhalation injuries per 10,000 workers were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2014 through 2017—a lower rate than the 3.6 found in the 2000 study. Workers between the ages of 25 and 34 had the largest percentage of injuries.

While the NIOSH research found that workplace inhalation injuries seem to be decreasing, the study’s lead author felt additional research is needed to understand why. The lead researcher suggested the decrease could be due to improvements in hazard controls or to workers receiving medical treatment outside of emergency departments.

The institute also announced newly released state Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) reports on an “Automotive mechanic fatally burned while using welder when washer fluid drum explodes” and “Mechanic service technician fatally struck by order picker carriage,” as well as Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports on a “Career firefighter candidate dies from heat stroke while performing firefighter essential function course” and “Seasonal wildland firefighter dies from hyperthermia during training hike.”

A post on NIOSH’s Science Blog examined the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the institute’s peer review activities. Since March 2020, all 42 additional review panel meetings have been virtual, either online (virtual meeting or Zoom) or by telephone. All 15 review panels in fiscal year 2022 were held using Zoom.